Saturday, June 12, 2004

The American Civil Liberties Union is at it again. In another attempt to subvert the nation’s historical religious heritage, the ACLU threatened to sue Los Angeles County unless officials removed a small cross from its seal. L.A. County woefully — and prematurely — capitulated.

The issue follows a similar matter in the California city of Redlands, where, after receiving a mere two phone calls of complaint, the ACLU threatened legal action if a cross was not removed from the city’s seal. The ACLU then threatened L.A. County in a May 19 letter, saying the seal reflects an “impermissible endorsement of Christianity” and violates the First Amendment.

The county Board of Supervisors adopted the current seal in 1957. Pomona, a Roman goddess of fruits and trees representing the region’s agriculture, is at the center of the seal. The cross, which was incorporated into the seal of the city of “angels” to represent the area’s settlement by Spanish missionaries, is part of one of six panels that surround Pomona’s image. Other symbols include: a triangle and calipers to represent industry; oil derricks; the Spanish galleon San Salvador; and a tuna and cow, to represent the once-prominent fishing and dairy industries.

The county supervisors voted in early June to remove the cross rather than face a legal battle, despite the fact that the seal will be costly to change. The current seal is in many of the county’s 5,000 buildings, as well as on stationary, business cards, flags and other places. Some supervisors wanted to avoid a potentially costly legal battle. But conservative legal foundations would have taken the case for free. Clearly, the board’s decision was not made out of pragmatism and frugality, but out of cowardice.

This situation is similar to two other cases where federal courts have allowed the governments to retain the crosses, when the small crosses were placed among a variety of secular symbols and were historical in nature. We agree with a local lawmaker, Janice Hahn, who was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying, “This seal in no way favors the practice and promotion of any religion over another, just as the goddess Pomona certainly does not encourage the act of pagan worship.”

There has been a rightful uproar in Los Angeles regarding this silly decision. Supervisors received over 5,000 phone calls, e-mails and letters from those who opposed the board’s decision, and more than 700 people attended a board meeting on Tuesday in a show of similar disapproval. Yet the supervisors were not persuaded.

America has long been a country to celebrate freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. It’s time to take a stand against those who wish to erase this nation’s history — a history whose ideals have made us who we are today.

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